Update: ‘Humanitarian window’ passes in Gaza after U.N. school attacked; 19 killed
UPDATE: The humanitarian window has passed.
GAZA CITY (CNN) — The Israeli military has authorized a four-hour “humanitarian window” in Gaza, but it will not apply to the areas in which soldiers are operating, the Israel Defense Forces said. The time frame is 3 to 7 p.m. local (8 a.m. to noon ET).
While dueling political leaders blame each other for the carnage in Gaza, residents there are grappling with a new, nightmarish life:
Dozens of deaths reported each day. Dwindling fuel and water supplies. And no electricity for countless civilians after Gaza’s only power plant was struck and erupted in flames.
The violence continued Wednesday morning, when Israeli forces shelled the Abu Hussein School in northern Gaza and killed 20 people, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.
An Israeli military spokesman said an initial review indicates militants fired at Israeli soldiers from the area of the school, and Israeli soldiers “responded by firing at the origin of the fire.”
The school was a U.N. facility based in Gaza’s Jebaliya refugee camp, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency said. Agency spokesman Gaza Adnan Abu Hasna gave a different death toll of 19, but said 126 people were injured.
Abu Hasna attributed the high number of casualties to the timing of the attack — when many had gathered for morning prayers.
It’s the second time this month that a U.N. school in Gaza has come under attack. On Thursday, 16 people were killed and hundreds wounded when a U.N.-run school in northern Gaza was struck, according to U.N. and Palestinian officials. An Israeli military spokesman said “a single errant Israeli mortar” landed in the courtyard, but said the military’s footage shows the courtyard was empty.
The daily bloodshed is now exasperated by crumbling infrastructure from the violence.
Palestinian officials blamed an Israeli airstrike for the attack on Gaza’s only power plant. But Israel said it didn’t target the power plant.
“I’ve gone through our air force, our navy, our ground forces on the ground. Haven’t been able to determine it was IDF activity,” Israel Defense Forces spokesman Peter Lerner said.
Either way, residents must depend almost entirely on small generators for electricity. Clean water is inaccessible for most. And some 3,600 people have lost their homes.
“We cannot supply electricity” for hospitals, sewage treatment or domestic use, said Fathi al-Sheikh Khalil, deputy chairman of the Palestinian Energy Natural Resources Authority in Gaza. “This is a disaster.”
Salah Jarour owns a small convenience store in Gaza. He now runs the store in the dark.
“This is not fair. We have children. Hospitals need power,” Jarour said. “The Israelis are not human.”
Many roads in Gaza City are deserted, except for ambulances pre-positioned to assist in case of an Israeli airstrike.
At least 1,283 people in Gaza have been killed and more than 7,100 have been wounded since the conflict between Israel and Hamas began this month, the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza said.
The number of militants killed is unclear, but the United Nations estimates that 70% to 80% of the dead are civilians.
On the Israeli side, 53 soldiers have died since Operation Protective Edge began July 8, according to the Israel Defense Forces. Three civilians have also been killed in Israel.
Poll: Most Israelis don’t want a cease-fire
While the vast majority of casualties are Palestinians in Gaza, Israel continues to dodge rocket attacks from Gaza with its Iron Dome missile defense system. Israeli officials say they are committed to destroying tunnels used by Palestinian militants in Gaza to make their way into Israel.
A poll released this week showed 86.5% of Jewish Israelis surveyed say Israel cannot accept a cease-fire because “Hamas continues firing missiles on Israel, not all the tunnels have been found, and Hamas has not surrendered,” according to the Jerusalem Post.
But Israel’s incursion into Gaza has had ripple effects around the world. Chile, Peru, Brazil and Ecuador have pulled their ambassadors out of Tel Aviv to protest the Israeli offensive.
No peace, but lots of blame
Hamas and Israeli officials blamed one another for the lack of a cease-fire — raising questions about just what it will take to end the fighting in Gaza.
International efforts to broker a deal to end the violence failed again Tuesday, with Hamas rejecting a cease-fire proposal put forward by the Palestinian Authority that called for a 24-hour truce that could be extended to 72 hours.
The sticking points: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said any truce must allow for its protection against the militant tunnels.
“Hamas is responsible for all deaths on their side and on our side because they are the ones who kept this conflict going,” Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev told CNN.
“People are fighting and people are dying because Hamas said no to a cease-fire.”
But Hamas says any deal must include an end to Israel’s blockade of Gaza. On Hamas-run TV, Mohammed Deif, chief of the group’s military wing, said that “there is no middle ground” regarding a truce until Israel ends its “siege” of Gaza.
“The Israeli enemy will not have security as long as we don’t have security for our people,” he said.
Hamas wants Israel to lift a blockade it began on Gaza in 2007, a move Israel has said was necessary to stop Hamas and other allied militant group from bringing weapons into Gaza.
But Israel has been criticized for sealing the borders, with aid groups saying the blockade has cut off basic supplies and created a humanitarian crisis.